Pet owners spend five thousand pounds in hidden costs

25 August 2015

  • Dog owners have the emptiest pockets with £427 being spent unexpectedly each year
  • A quarter of owners* have personally gone without to pay for hidden costs
  • Owners in the East Midlands are hardest hit by these costs

New research by The Co-operative Insurance has revealed the hidden costs of pet ownership, with cats and dogs costing their owners on average an unexpected £5,000 over a lifetime. 

Averaging £427 a year, dog owners were likely to spend the most – £5,551 over a lifetime and cat owners £4,980, an average of £332 each year. **

The findings reveal the most common unexpected costs are for unforeseen vet trips (75%), special dietary requirements (17%) and boarding kennels / catteries (10%). However, there are also some more unique unexpected costs, including birthday presents, (1%), pet yoga (1.5%) and pet cams (1%).

While most people consider the obvious practical costs of owning a pet, many haven’t anticipated all of the associated potential costs. The research shows that almost half (49%) of pet owners didn’t think about the finances before they first got their pet. Of these, half of pet owners (48%) have since faced unexpected costs. 

Pet owners in the East Midlands are hardest hit by these hidden costs which are, on average, £663 in the region. With pet owners in London (£468) and Yorkshire (£464) not far behind when it comes to finding money that they hadn’t accounted for, for their animal companions.

According to the research, the main reason for unplanned costs are an accident or sudden injury of a pet with almost three quarters of owners saying that this caught them off- guard (73%).  The Co-operative Insurance’s own data illustrates that almost one in five claims (18%) made by pet owners is the result of an accident or injury, with dogs suffering the most. ***

Other reasons for spiralling costs include a lack of research by owners on what is involved before first getting a pet (11%), and an unexpected trip away from home (10%).

As a result, a fifth of people (21%) have gone without essential items to pay for unexpected costs, and a third (31%) have gone without luxury items.

Dog-owners faced the most surprise costs with their expenses amounting to an average of £427 each year.
When looking at how owners have financed these costs, the research highlights only two thirds (43%) of owners had the funds immediately available to pay for unexpected costs.   Two fifths (38%) of owners dipped into their savings and a quarter (23%) used a credit card to fund these costs.

One in ten (10 %) were able to use their pet insurance for costs which related to vets bills, whilst 7% borrowed from friends and family.

David Hampson, Head of Pet Insurance at The Co-operative, states: “As a nation of pet lovers the research clearly shows the lengths people are prepared to go to, to ensure the happiness and welfare of their pets.  From owners throwing birthday parties for their pets, to going without essentials to ensure their pets welfare, more than ever pets are cementing their place in the family.

“The research shows that while people generally consider the basics when buying a pet, a significant number don’t think about the unexpected things that can add up.  That said, the special relationship that can develop between a pet and their owner is priceless.  

“There will always be circumstances which are unforeseen, but with vet fees on the rise and as they are the most common unplanned cost, pet owners should consider taking out pet insurance for peace of mind so that they have cover in place should the unexpected happen.”

*21% of owners say they have gone without essential items, 31% without luxury items. 21+31=62/2= 26%.  Essential items are classed as those such as food, drink or travel.  Luxury items include days out, holidays or toys for example.  Essential items are classed as those such as food, drink or travel.  Luxury items include days out, holidays or toys for example. 

**Annual unexpected cost of a cat is £332 with an average life expectancy of 15 years
Annual unexpected cost of a dog is £427 with a life expectancy of 13 years on average

*** Based on The Co-operative Insurance pet insurance 2014 claims figures.  The most expensive injuries to treat for dogs were cruciate ligament damage. 
Essential items are classed as those such as food, drink or travel.  Luxury items include days out, holidays or toys for example. 


About The Co-operative Insurance

The Co-operative Insurance, part of The Co-operative Group, is committed to ‘Doing the Right thing’ and always strives to treat customers and members fairly.
The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest co-operative business, whose purpose is “Championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities.” Owned by more than 5 million members, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 4,500 outlets, with around 87,000 employees and has an annual turnover of £11 billion with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services.

The Group operates across two core divisions of Retail and Consumer Services. The Consumer Services Division includes Funeralcare, the UK’s number one funeral services provider, Co-operative Insurance, a major UK general insurer and CLS, The Group’s legal services operation.


For further information contact:

Alex Wilson
Press & Media Relations Manager
The Co-operative Group
07540 641368

Jenna Moss
Press & Media Relations Manager
The Co-operative Group
07770 441828